Businesses continue to struggle on reasons to use Twitter. Pick up a copy of Twitterville: How Businesses Can Thrive in the New Global Neighborhoods by Shel Israel. It's a fantastic book that documents the birth and growth of Twitter as an incredible new medium for businesses to communicate through.
As I was reading the book, Shel mentions several reasons why a company would want to use Twitter. I think many of them are worth listing… along with some discussion…as well as a few others.
- Distributing Coupons and Offers – since Twitter is a permission-based communication medium, it's the perfect means of distributing offers. Good friend Adam Small has seen this in the restaurant and real estate industries – where a combination of Mobile Alerts, Twitter, Facebook, Blogging and syndication have helped grow all of his clients' businesses… while in a down market!
- Communicating with Employees – rather than tying up email servers or wasting peoples' time in meeting rooms, Twitter is a great collaboration tool. In fact, that's why it was first created by Odeo under the name Twttr (i and the e dropped for less typing for SMS!)
- Receiving Customer Complaints – companies constantly fight to avoid their dirty laundry being put out in the public eye. The irony is that consumers don't believe in 5-star service anymore. The most aggressive promotion and criticism of companies typically comes after their response… or inactivity. By accepting customer complaints in the open, other consumers can see what kind of company you really are.
- Finding or Posting a Job – Recruiters and seekers are utilizing Twitter to post about jobs wanted or job openings. With a geographic search, you can even locate how close you're looking to find employment and can combine other terms for your search.
- Information Seeking and Sharing – Back when I had under one thousand visitors, Twitter had become a great alternative to search engines. Google has realized this as well, integrating your online communities into search results. Typically, the answers I get are very relevant because those who follow me are working in the same industry as I am.
- Inbound Marketing Strategy – while working at Compendium, we began to notice the number and quality of the inbound leads that came to our site from Twitter were much more likely to convert than through search. Although search engines gave us massive volumes of visitors, we absolutely began advising clients to get onboard Twitter and automate their feeds via tools like Hootsuite or Twitterfeed.
- Humanizing Business – businesses who have little or no contact with the public are finding that providing a human touch is great for business and required for customer retention. If your business is struggling with providing human interaction and are resource-starved, Twitter is a great medium. It need not be monitored all day (although I'd advise it… speedy replies get oohs and aahs), but a response from a faceless company by an actual person with an avatar is always cool.
- Personal Branding – alongside humanizing business is the ability for employees or business owners to also build a personal brand. Building a personal brand online can lead to many things… perhaps even starting your own agency! Be selfish about your career. Too many people that were worried about what their company might think if they put themselves out in the public eye are now looking for jobs because that same company laid them off.
- Twitter Search Optimization with Hashtags – searches on Twitter are becoming more and more common. Get found by utilizing hashtags effectively in your Tweets or in your autopost mechanisms.
- Effective Networking – networking online is a great precursor for networking offline. I can't tell you how many prospects I've met through Twitter. Some of us knew each other for months before actually connecting offline, but it's led to some great business relationships.
- Viral Marketing – Twitter is the ultimate in viral marketing. The Retweet (RT) is an incredibly powerful tool… pushing your message from network to network to network in a matter of minutes. I'm not sure that there is a quicker viral technology on the market right now.
- Fund-raising – Shel writes some great examples of how companies have effectively utilized Twitter for philanthropic endeavors. The benefit is both to the business and the charity – since the businesses' involvement is publicized better on Twitter than had they just made a mention on a web site somewhere.
- Online Ordering – Aside from coupons and offers, some folks are even taking customer orders online. Shel writes about a coffee shop where you can Tweet in your order and go pick it up. Very cool!
- Public Relations – Since Twitter works at the speed of typing 140 characters, your company can get ahead of everyone… the competition, the media, leaks… by having an aggressive PR strategy that incorporates Twitter. When you make the announcement first, people come to you. Don't leave it up to traditional media or a blogger to get things right… use Twitter to command and direct the communication.
- Communicate Alerts – have a problem with your company and need to communicate with your customers or prospects? Twitter can be a great way of doing this. Pingdom has even added Twitter Alerts to it's services… what a great idea! Except… when Twitter goes down they can't use the service 😉 An alert can be a great thing as well… perhaps to notify your customers that a product is back in stock.
Shel mentions that some of the business use cases in his books can't be attributed directly to revenue. Though this is true, they can ultimately be measured and a return on investment applied. I'm confident that a customer service department that's tracking call volume and Tweets can do some kind of measuring to see if Twitter reduces average call volume since the answers are publicized. As with #15… if my site goes down and it's Tweeted… then those folks are going to be less apt to call me to let me know since they see that I've already confirmed the issue.
What am I missing?